Matthew Woodward is an SEO expert and the owner of a successful marketing blog and Youtube channel. In this podcast, he tells us about the early days of affiliate marketing and explains why many SEO marketers are doing it wrong.

Matthew Woodward has been publishing tutorials and case studies that are focused on helping to grow their digital presence since 2012. His blog attracts over 4 million visitors and 170,000 subscribers and has established itself as a leader in its field. ​Building websites, digital marketing ​& SEO has been his passion for the last 20 years.

On his YouTube channel, Matthew teaches a range of marketing techniques step-by-step, covering topics like SEO, link building, traffic generation, email marketing, social media marketing, and more.


Content Is Your Salesman

Before starting his successful YouTube channel, which has over 20k subscribers to date, Matthew focused on content:

“Content is the heart and soul of any digital business. It’s your salesman. It’s the person that interfaces between the person reading and your bottom-line revenue. So, paying attention to content has always, always, always been important. And, people often take shortcuts there. The affiliate landscape in 2005 was, you just throw three to 500 words together at 3% keyword density. It didn’t even need to all be unique. You could just scrape it, spin it and post it in and it would rank. That doesn’t fly anymore. You’ve really got to bring the human into it. You’ve got to write content for humans. Whereas before, we were writing it strictly for search engines.

So, if you look at any of the content on my blog, you’ll see that I’m not taking any shortcuts in the production of content. I feel like that’s a weakness that many people have when they’re building a site, whether it’s an affiliate site or even a site that represents a business. Oftentimes the content doesn’t really get the attention that it should do.”


There Is No Golden Strategy That Works for Everything

As an SEO expert, Matthew has a strong opinion on the White Hat/Black Hat discussion:

“You can be the SEO person that is more oriented towards link building and trying to game the system. And there are others that are more led by more unique content and creation process. So, what are your ideas about that?

I think you’ve got to have a complete strategy. You can’t go all the way left, and you can’t go all the way right. The SEO world is often divided by the white hat black hat SEO argument. To me, that’s a stupid argument. Anyone that identifies as a white hat SEO is an idiot. And anyone that identifies as a black hat SEO is an idiot. And anyone that identifies as a gray hat SEO is well just two different types of idiot put together.

The reason I say that is because the Google algorithm is just that. It’s an algorithm. It’s looking for certain metrics. As SEOs, it’s our job to feed it those metrics. And the whole white hat black hat thing is just stupid human psychology that we’ve injected into things to make it more complicated than it needs to be. So, I don’t subscribe to any one of that.

And, obviously, there are more risky ways of doing SEO and less risky ways of doing SEO. But, if you’re doing any kind of link building that’s against Google’s Webmaster guidelines, right? It’s against the guidelines. So any type of link building is by traditional definition black hat. And you’ll see lots of white hat SEOs that use that label banging the guest blogging drum or this, that and the other. But, all of it’s black hat.

So, that’s where I see a lot of people go wrong is that you can’t just go all the way left or all the way right. You need a complete working understanding. And there isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. Some sites you’ve got to go a bit more aggressive with. Some you need to go a bit softer. There isn’t that golden strategy that just works for everything. There isn’t a universal key. So, you’ve got to build that complete understanding.

If you identify as a white hat, what you actually do is become ignorant of anything black hat, which stops you getting that complete understanding. Equally, black hats who I often find like to think that they’re above will become ignorant of everything white hat. So, then they lack a complete understanding. In the end, you only lose if you choose a side. It’s much better to just understand. There’s a single algorithm. It’s looking for certain metrics. And then look at ways you can just give it those metrics. That’s all there is to it.”


Why I Decided to Disclose My Income

Although he might not be the first to do this, Matthew has been very transparent in terms of his income, releasing his revenues since the first moment of his blog, back in 2012. Why did he choose to do so?

“I started because, as I said, the blog was born out of an experiment of zero link building, and I wanted a way to report and track that. Income reports, I took influence from John Chow. John Chow, if you don’t know, for people that haven’t been in the game for a long time, he had a famous spat with Google. They de-indexed him. Some guy ranked spam site for, to the point they were ripping loads and loads and loads of people off. And Google had no option but to put someone back in the search results they’d taken out with a heavy, heavy, heavy black hat SEO. He was the first guy I ever seen publish an income report, 2006, seven, eight. Something like that. So, I decided I was going to use the same format to report on my progress.

So, I published them for six years. I shared everything I did that month, why I did it. I shared all of the income, where the income came from, the expenses, what it was spent on. I shared all of the traffic sources. Absolutely everything in complete transparency. So, you can follow that from day zero all the way through to the blog making $1.2-million.

The reason I stopped doing it is, the income reports had served their purpose. The experiment was, “Can you rank a site with zero link building?” The experiment was probably proved a success after the first year. And, the income reports, first of all, they take a lot of time to produce. A lot, a lot of effort to put all of that together and publish it every month. And I published them on the first day every month for six years without fail like a beating drum. It didn’t matter if I was sick, hung over. On the first of the month that report was coming out one way or another.

The problem is, there was so much resource going into creating them, and they have a short shelf-life so to speak. Combined with the fact that the experiment was already proved a success. I didn’t feel a need to keep going kind of past the million dollar mark. So, I got to the million dollar mark, I was a few months short of the end of the year. I figured I’d keep it going to the end of the year and then I killed it.”


Write Content for Humans

Matthew teaches people how to blog, how to make money from blogging, and how to build websites. What does he think is the most challenging thing today? What is their “aha” moment when he teaches them?

“The making money online thing, blogging and everything like that are often sold as the magic pill, or the solution to your dreams. It’s a bridge to get to your dreams. But, what people don’t talk about is the amount of work that goes into making those things a reality. Now, if you’re just starting, you’ve got a lot to learn. You’ve got to learn not just how to write content, you’ve got to learn basic HTML, some light basic stuff with WordPress. You’ve got to learn about sales and marketing. You’ve got to learn about how to talk to people. You’ve got to learn analytics. There’s so much to learn. And I often find people are trying to run before they can walk.

So, the most important thing that you should do if you’re just starting out is, just remember that all of the content that you create, the websites that you create, are going to be digested by real power. Are going to come and read it. Those words are going to enter their brain. They’re going to be processed by a human brain, and they’re going to react to that. People forget about that when they’re building sites and looking at data and Google analytics and things like that.

So, if you’re building something, first of all build it with pride. Don’t take shortcuts. Take pride. Actually, look at it objectively and say, ‘Yeah, I’m proud of what I’ve built.’ That is often lacking. And when people show me things I often say, ‘Are you proud of that?’ And they’re like, ‘What?’ I’m like, ‘Is that the best you can do?’. If your immediate answer to that question was ‘Yeah, I’m proud of that,’ you’re not building it right. You’ve got to build something that humans love.

Humans are the ones that are going to take the credit card out of the wallet and pay for something and make you an affiliate commission. So, that’s where I feel many going wrong. We forget about that human element. And when you’re just starting out, and you’re learning so much, and you’re getting distracted with tools and data and this, that and the other, we often forget about the human element of it. And that’s the most important part, especially in SEO.

You can’t build anything that’s search engine friendly unless it’s human-friendly first. And lots of people do it the other way around. They make it search engine friendly first, and then they try and make it human-friendly after. Just keep the people in mind. Keep the human in mind at all times when you’re creating content or whatever it is that you’re doing.”